Will 39 approved council houses leave tenants "trapped" outside Moray village?
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A RECENTLY-approved Moray Council development could leave residents feeling stuck and isolated.
That is the view of Speyside Community Council chairperson Marion Ross, who sees a number of issues with the proposed 39-home Speyview estate on the outskirts of Aberlour.
She estimates the development is at least a 35-minute walk from the village Co-op store and 45 minutes from Speyside High School, some of which is on a "narrow" pavement along the A95 trunk road.
The "active travel route" between the site and essential village services is also located on a steep hill which, she claimed, would make it hard for young families to live without a car.
“Our concerns are not the housing – because we welcome that and we know people need affordable housing," she said.
“But it's how people are going to get on and off the site safely that concerns us.
“I really wouldn't want to be walking down there with a child.
“The path is not very wide in places and drivers have really got their foot down to go up the hill – and it is a long way.
"Who is going to walk that with young kids?"
Elderly and disabled residents might also struggle with a difficult climb out of the village, she added.
“Coming back up from Aberlour, it's fairly steep walking up the main road, then it's even steeper going up the Dowans Road," Mrs Ross said.
“Any older person with a health issue, say you've got a bad heart, you maybe can't walk 35 minutes up a hill.
“People could be stuck up there, and then they become isolated.
“The council didn't seem to think it was unreasonable to have to walk 35, 45 minutes into Aberlour.
"And they seem to think it's perfectly okay to be crossing the A95 without a controlled pedestrian crossing."
Moray Council claimed that a number of imposed conditions on the development, including a new active travel route, laybys and a bus stop would make Speyview more accessible.
A spokesperson added that "walking routes from the development to Aberlour will be subject to further safety auditing."
Mrs Ross said she expected the homes to see a high level of demand, but worried that residents could be left regretting their decision.
“The houses are probably beautiful, and people will want to live in them," she said.
“But once they're in them, will the reality then hit home? Will people think: ‘I'm quite stuck here’?
"How do you get people on and off safely? How do you ensure that people are not isolated?"
The development, which Speyside Community Council objected to, was approved by seven votes to five at a council meeting on December 19.
The bid to deny the development was proposed by Mrs Ross's husband Councillor Derek Ross (Independent/Speyside Glenlivet).
Mrs Ross said it was “stretching the imagination” to claim that the new development was in Aberlour.
She also argued that vulnerable residents would be unfairly affected because, to catch a bus, residents would be forced to cross the A95 trunk road without traffic lights.
“This is my personal opinion, it's not the Community Council's opinion, but I think they so desperately need to have houses that everything else is put on the back burner," she said .
“There are no traffic lights, so anybody with a visual impairment wouldn't know if there's anything coming."
The community council has been suggesting a bus turning circle within the development that would allow residents to board buses without crossing the road since 2018.
However, Mrs Ross claimed that this suggestion had not been taken on.
“There's very little public transport in Aberlour anyway, and certainly even less up at Speyview," she said.
“They're promoting the M-Connect on-demand service – but it doesn't run in the evenings, it doesn't run on the weekends.
“And, unless they can pick you up from in front of your house, you've got to cross the A95 to get it from a bus stop."
She added that Speyview would only be served by the 398758A bus that goes from Aberlour to Elgin via Carron and Archiestown, which does not run on evenings and weekends, along with "one or two buses a week that come down from Tomintoul".
"You're not talking about a regular bus service," she added.
A Moray Council spokesperson said: “As with all planning applications, a number of services and organisations are consulted prior to the application being considered.
"This includes Transport Scotland and the council’s own transportation team.
"As a result, a number of conditions have been placed on the approved application including installation of new active travel links; laybys and bus stops; and a travel pack will be provided to all residents to inform them of the services available and choices to consider when travelling to and from the area.
"Walking routes from the development to Aberlour will be subject to further safety auditing to identify where additional improvements can be made as part of the development.
"These proposals will also benefit the existing residents of Sellar Place and Taylor Court and connect these residential developments.
“Moray’s demand responsive transport offering, m.connect, allows users to book services at a time that suits them, and will serve the area.
"The weekend service for m.connect is expected to roll-out in advance of the development being completed.”